Beijing: Chinese Internet giant Baidu on Monday said it will soon ply fully driverless taxis in Chongqing and Wuhan cities via its autonomous ride-hailing unit called Apollo Go, becoming the first company in the country to herald autonomous driving.
The search engine group recently showcased a new generation of self-driving vehicles.
Baidu has now secured permits to offer a fully driverless commercial robotaxi service, with no human driver present, reports TechCrunch.
Baidu has also secured a permit to run driverless cars on open roads in Beijing but here, the permit still requires a human operator in the front passenger seat.
However, it will be the first time an autonomous vehicle company is able to offer a fully driverless ride-hailing service in China in Wuhan and Chongqing cities.
“This is a tremendous qualitative change. We believe these permits are a key milestone on the path to the inflection point when the industry can finally roll out fully autonomous driving services at scale,” said Wei Dong, vice president and chief safety operation officer of Baidu’s Intelligent Driving Group.
In Wuhan, Baidu’s service will operate from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m and cover a 13 square km area.
In Chongqing, the service will run from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in a 30 square km area to begin with.
Last month, Baidu revealed designs for its sixth generation electric robotaxi, the Apollo RT6 EV that costs around $37,000.
Baidu plans to expand its ride-hailing service to 65 cities by 2025 and 100 cities by 2030, said the report.
Self-driving car service Cruise recently began driverless commercial service in San Francisco, and Waymo has been offering such autonomous services in the city of Arizona since 2020.